Bengals Earn Rare Playoff Win; Bills Trounce Patriots
The Cincinnati Bengals put an end to the longest active playoff win drought in the league on Saturday evening, holding off the Las Vegas Raiders at home for a 26-19 win in the AFC Wild Card round. The team continues their bounce back year after going from worst to first in the AFC North, as quarterback Joe Burrow led his team on six scoring drives, and a stop on fourth and goal by the defense sealed the win. Burrow threw for 244 yards on 24-of-34 throwing with two touchdowns, one to C.J. Uzomah and one to Tyler Boyd. The latter touchdown for the Bengals came with controversy, as an errant whistle was blown during the play, but the refs never blew the play dead like they should've. Despite that drama, the Bengals got their first playoff win in 31 years, leaving the Detroit Lions at 29 years with the longest playoff win drought in the league. Their next opponent will depend on the result of the Kansas City Chiefs-Pittsburgh Steelers contest on Sunday night. And the Buffalo Bills put two close contests with the New England Patriots behind them on Saturday night, blowing out the Patriots on their home field with a 47-17 rout in the Wild Card Round. Josh Allen set a franchise record with five touchdown passes, including two to Dawson Knox, while Devin Singletary found the end zone twice on the ground. It was the second win over the Patriots in three weeks, as they handed them their largest margin of defeat in a playoff game under Bill Belichick, which dates back to 2000. Allen had 308 yards through the air on 21 of 25 throwing, as they became the first team to score on each of its seven possessions of a playoff game. The Bills will either host the Bengals next week, or visit the Chiefs, if they were to beat the Steelers on Sunday night.
Baylor, USC Suffer Second Losses of The Week
The top-ranked Baylor Bears are set to drop a decent amount in next week's AP Polls as they dropped their second home game of the week Saturday night, 61-54, against the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Bryce Thompson got hot late to lead his team, scoring the game's final six points, and finished with 19 for the game, as his team moved to 9-7 on the year. The win was their third conference road game in five days, causing over 3,200 miles of travel, but that was not enough to add to the pressure of facing the defending national champions. The first two games of the road trip did not go to plan with losses to West Virginia and Texas Tech, but they were able to hand the Bears consecutive losses for the first time since the end of the 2015-2016 season. The defending champs trailed by as many as 17 points and could not bounce back from their loss to the Red Raiders earlier this week. And the fifth-ranked USC Trojans fell for the second time on their home floor this week as well, as the Oregon Ducks got their second straight top five win, 79-69, out west. The Ducks were coming off an overtime win over the third-ranked UCLA Bruins earlier this week, and have now won five consecutive games. Will Richardson led the way with 28 points in a rematch of last season's Sweet 16 matchup, as the road team held the Trojans to just 41% shooting. The Ducks were also able to control the pace with 15 fast break points and jumped out to the 10-point lead in the first half, leading for a majority of the night. Boogie Ellis and Isaiah Mobley had 18 points apiece, with Mobley adding nine rebounds, but the Trojans are sure to fall out of the top 10 in the polls next week, with the Ducks on pace to enter the top 25.
Other key scores, including some top 15 upsets, saw the unranked Northwestern Wildcats snap the 10th-ranked Michigan State Spartans' nine-game winning streak with a 64-62 win. The Arkansas Razorbacks ended the game on a 17-2 run to take down the 12th-ranked LSU Tigers, 65-58, on the road. Tyty Washington Jr. had 28 points as the 18th-ranked Kentucky Wildcats crushed the 22nd-ranked Tennessee Volunteers, 107-78. Gabe Kalscheeur had 22 points to lead the 15th-ranked Iowa State Cyclones past the 21st-ranked Texas Longhorns, 79-70. And the Kansas State Wildcats pulled away in the final minute to complete the 62-51 upset of the 19th-ranked Texas Tech Red Raiders.
Embiid Stays Hot as Sixers Top Heat; Raptors Keep Bucks' Number
Joel Embiid is back healthy and is driving his Philadelphia 76ers back near the top of the Eastern Conference after a 109-98 win over the Miami Heat Saturday night. Embiid posted 32 points, including 25 in the second half, as he overcame some elbow soreness to lead his team to a strong finish. It was his ninth 30-point game in his past 10 contests, and his strong second half helped the Sixers outscore the Heat, 66-48, over the final 24 minutes. Tobias Harris added 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting, which was much needed after his recent struggles, while Seth Curry had 21 points in the win. The road team erased a 12-point deficit in the third quarter, earning their ninth win in 10 games. Heat rookie center Omer Yurtseven had a career-high 22 points and 10 rebounds, earning his 14th straight double digit rebound game, but the Heat dropped to third in the East. Meanwhile, the Toronto Raptors earned their second road win over the Milwaukee Bucks in the past couple weeks, getting the best of the defending champs, 103-96. The win helped overcome consecutive losses, including an upset to the Detroit Pistons Friday night, as Pascal Siakam posted a triple-double of 30 points, 10 assists, and 10 rebounds. The performance was his second career triple-double, as the Raptors rallied from an early 15-point deficit and took advantage of a Bucks team that shot just 33% from the floor. OG Annunoby added 24 points to help the Raptors improve to a perfect 3-0 against the Bucks this season, and they have now won five straight in the overall series. Giannis Antetokounmpo led the way with 30 points, making all of 17 free throws, as this was his first game against the Raptors this year, but it was still not enough.
Other key scores saw Nikola Jokic post his eighth triple-double in the Denver Nuggets 133-96 blowout of the Los Angeles Lakers. Robert Williams' late free throws helped complete the Boston Celtics' rally for a 114-112 victory against the Chicago Bulls. Anfernee Simons posted 31 points with a career-high 11 assists in the Portland Trail Blazers;' 115-110 win over the Washington Wizards. And the Brooklyn Nets lost Kevin Durant to a sprained knee in a 120-105 win over the New Orleans Pelicans.
Bulls' Derrick Jones Jr. Out 2-4 Weeks
The Chicago Bulls have not had a good week with home blowout losses to the Brooklyn Nets and Golden State Warriors, and now they're depth is being affected due to injury. The team announced that forward Derrick Jones Jr. will miss two to four weeks after an MRI revealed a significant bone bruise in his right knee. The injury occurred when he hyperextended it during Wednesday's loss against the Nets just 36 seconds in to the game. He landed awkwardly on his leg and was helped to the locker room, did not return, and then missed Friday's loss to the Warriors. There was no serious ligament damage, but this one hurts for Chicago, as they had relied on Jones shifting in to the starting lineup over the past six games. That is because of Alex Caruso, Javonte Green, and Tyler Cook being sidelined for a variety of reasons. Jones is averaging 6.3 points and 3.4 rebounds over 31 games and eight starts this season.
Leafs Top Blues in Thriller; Hall Lifts Bruins in Overtime
The Toronto Maple Leafs and St. Louis Blues gave us every bit of the show that we would hope from those two teams, as Ilya Mikheyev scored the go-ahead goal with 3:15 to play for a 6-5 Leafs win. Timothy Liljegren, Mitch Marner, Auston Matthdws, John Tavares, and Michael Bunting also scored for the Leafs, backing up Jack Campbell's rough night. The goaltender gave up five goals on 25 shots, but still improved to 19-5-3 on the year. Jordan Binnington faced a lot more pressure and had 34 saves, but suffered his first regulation loss at home since November 16th, as he went 12-0-1 during that span. Ryan O'Reilly scored twice, while Niko Mikkola, Robert Thomas, and Brandon Saad all scored in the Blues 11th loss of the year. The Leafs keep pace with the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning in the Atlantic Division, staying six points back of both. And the Boston Bruins stayed hot on Saturday afternoon, as Taylor Hall slammed home a rebound in overtime for a 4-3 win over the Nashville Predators. The game-winner came 1:41 in to overtime, as the Bruins won their fifth straight game and are now 8-1 since New Year's Day. Brad Marchand, Craig Smith, and Mike Reilly all scored for the Bruins, while Linus Ullmark made 26 saves in the win. Ullmark allowed goals to Colton Sissons, Luke Kunin, and Ramon Josi, but the Predators dropped just their third game in regulation over the past 18 contests. They have gone 13-3-2 during that span, but Juuse Saros' 40 saves was not enough, although, the Preds did escape the TD Garden with a point.
Other key scores saw Jake Guentzel score just 37 seconds in to overtime to lift the Pittsburgh Penguins over the San Jose Sharks, 2-1. The Florida Panthers used a four-goal first period to get going, and then remained red hot with a 9-2 blowout of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Ross Colton's late goal helped the Tampa Bay Lightning hand the Dallas Stars their seventh straight road loss, 3-1. And Chris Kreider's third-period goal gave the New York Rangers a 3-2 victory against the Philadelphia Flyers.